Authorship Ethics: Issues and Suggested Guidelines for the Helping Professions

By Nguyen, Thuy; Nguyen, Tuyen D. | Counseling and Values, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Authorship Ethics: Issues and Suggested Guidelines for the Helping Professions


Nguyen, Thuy, Nguyen, Tuyen D., Counseling and Values


The authors review the literature and explore common ethical dilemmas related to publishing research. Varying standards are presented to assist professionals and students in their publication endeavors, Joint research collaboration in many graduate programs is encouraged and appears inevitable. Joint research activities may involve student-faculty collaboration or professional peer collaboration. Although many helping professions have ethics codes that address publication issues, there is no standard among them regarding the issue of authorship. Although it appears necessary to follow minimal codes of ethics regarding authorship, consideration of suggested guidelines and aspirational ethics may enhance the professional growth of mental health professionals and students in mental health programs.

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Publishing research is a vital undertaking for mental health professionals (Fine & Kurdek, 1993; Holaday & Yost, 1995; Jones, 1999; Spiegel & Keith-Spiegel, 1970, Winston, 1985; Zook, 1987). According to Garfield (1978), in the past, authorship credit was not an issue when most articles were written by one author. However, the prevalence of multiple authorship has increased the importance of these ethical questions.

Each mental health profession has a code of ethics that guides members of that profession regarding standards of practice (Iammarino, O'Rourke, Pigg, & Weinberg, 1989). Regardless of several codes of ethics that address authorship issues, it remains an issue with authors and researchers in the mental health professions. Historically, the order of authorship has been dictated by seniority, according to Falvo and Parker (2000). Today, the assumption is that the authors who have contributed the most to the research are listed first. However, authors may still engage in disputes over authorship order, or an individual may accept secondary authorship regardless of having made primary contributions. Furthermore, professional preparation programs seldom adequately prepare students to handle concerns related to research and professional publication. To help build a knowledge base on publication ethics, we present a review of the literature on the trends and ethics regarding multiple authorship and the ethics standards of various mental health organizations, examine both advantages and disadvantages of collaborative research, provide graduate students' real-life research collaboration experiences, offer prevention suggestions and guidelines for students and faculty when engaged in collaborative research, and address implications for the helping professions with respect to collaborative research.

Trends in Publication

Two observable trends in publication have been noted. First, researchers such as Fields (1983), Jones (1999), and Stockton and Toth (1997) have suggested that there may be an increase in faculty members wanting their names to appear on articles that are based on students' research projects. Students often take part in research projects that either they or faculty members set in motion (Iammarino et al., 1989). In either situation, a positive, reciprocally advantageous relationship should be developed; however, Costa and Gatz (1992); Goodyear, Crego, and Johnston (1992); and Pope and Vetter (1992) found some faculty members did not give students appropriate authorship credit but instead took credit that was not earned based on their minimal contribution.

The second observable trend, which is related to the first trend, is that of multiple authorship among faculty colleagues (Endersby, 1996; Gladding, 1984; Holaday & Yost, 1995; Iammarino et al., 1989; Lundberg & Flanagin, 1989; Melin & Persson, 1996; Sacco & Milana, 1984; Strahan, 1982). For example, Gladding reviewed articles published from 1971 through 1982 in The Personnel and Guidance Journal to determine whether there was an increase in multiple-authored articles through the years, and indeed such a trend was noted.

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